July 13th, 1861
My Little Darling,
I have just finished reading your dear sweet letter the second time. I received it last night about dusk. You cannot imagine how happy it made me.
It came just at the right time. I had just returned to our camp after being absent on another scout ever since the evening before and by far the most interesting one I have ever been in. I will give you the particulars as they occurred:
Last Thursday evening while I was seated listening to a very interesting sermon from a Rev. Mr. Poindexter I was told by our orderly sergeant I had been picked out to go with twenty others from each company on a scout. I immediately left to prepare myself for the excursion although I hated very much to miss the sermon as it is so seldom we have the opportunity of hearing one.
About six o’clock in the afternoon we left our camp. The ride for a short distance was very pleasant as we had a very refreshing shower just before we started. But to our disappointment it reached only a very short way on our road. Of course the rest of the way was very dusty as we had not been blessed with a shower since last Saturday.
We drew up in the middle of the road not very far from Bethel to spend the night. I’m unable to say what time as I was fast asleep nearly the whole time we were traveling.
I was riding a horse I borrowed from our captain as Beauregard has not entirely gotten over his lameness. The horse was blind in one eye and while I was lying at the root of a tree fast asleep with the rains wrapped around my arm to keep him from getting away from me. He turned the blind side to me and the first thing I knew he put his foot right upon the top of mine. It was by no means a pleasant feeling. Owing to my having on my old broad bottom boots, I escaped unhurt.
About day next morning we marched down as usual in about three miles of Newport News where we concealed ourselves but on a different road. Guards were then sent in every direction to watch the advance of any force that might be sent out from the enemy’s camp.
About ten o’clock one of the guards came in and reported a company marching down the road towards Lee’s store, one of our picket posts. We were ordered to mount our horses and o’er many minutes had passed we were all ready and eager to follow our brave and noble commander Major Hood.
About a half an hour’s ride brought us to the spot where they had been seen. An advance guard was then sent on to find out the whereabouts of the enemy, the column keeping some distance behind.
The guard had not gone far before they saw a few of them cross the road several hundred yards ahead. They reported the fact and we were ordered to dismount.
The Mechlenburg company being armed with carbines and four Louisianians who were down here scouting on their own hook were thrown on the front and the companies armed with shotguns were ordered to mount and hold themselves in readiness for a charge as soon as all of the enemy’s guns had been discharged.
By this time the enemy had concealed themselves in the thick woods on each side of the road. Our noble officer with his little hand full of men pressed bravely onward keeping in the edge of the thicket until in shooting distance of the enemy when they were fired upon. But as in the battle of Bethel the Yankee’s balls passed far above their noble heads. In spite of the fast flying balls and the many commands given by the Yankee officers to make our men believe they had a large force behind, they pressed forward. A few fires from our side was all that was needed to put the unprincipled hirelings to flight. Away they went through the woods, some of them almost forgetting they had a gun.
I am happy to say our men stood to their posts nobly and manly. I never saw a cooler and mere determined set of men in all my life. I have seen more excitement on a courter round than was exhibited on yesterday.
When they began to retreat the reserve companies were ordered to charge! But owing to the thickness of the woods in which the Yankees fled for protection it was thought imprudent to venture in although some few of the Mechlenburg troopers heedless of the danger they were in rushed madly in and succeeded in taking some two or three prisoners after they had reached this large body of woods.
We charged down the road to an open field and saw three passing across at double quick time. The fence was immediately thrown down and away went the horsemen in pursuit of the fast retreating Yankees. As soon as they were overtaken they threw up their hands and begged for quarter. The gentleman who had taken one of them as he thought turned his head to see if he could see any more crossing the field. When the Yankees saw this he threw up his gun and fired after surrendering. Fortunately he missed his aim. The gentleman said the ball passed in a few inches of him.
As soon as the rascal shot he again took to his heels. He was fired upon by the same gentleman and the ball taking effect in the hip. He of course fell. A member of the Charles City Troop had his horse shot from under him while crossing the open field. He was ahead of me.
Our commander thinking it would be imprudent to remain any longer as they could be reinforced very easily (and in fact one of the prisoners said they had a large force ready at the camp to start as soon as the news could reach if they had an engagement).
We then marched down the road to Lee’s store where we formed a line to ascertain if any of our men had been killed. I am truly glad to say not a single one of our men got a scratch.
We had eleven prisoners. I am unable to say how many were killed as we did not go into the woods to look for them. We picked up those lying on the side of the road. One dead, two wounded. The men who were sent after them said they heard them groaning in the woods but they were ordered not to leave the road on any account. The dead one was left at Lee’s store for the pickets to bury.
After giving our commander three cheers he made a few remarks in which he congratulated us. He said he had never been in the field with cooler braver men, that we far surpassed his expectations. We then gave three cheers for Captain Goode of the Mechlenburg Troop. Major Hood then proposed three cheers for our Louisiana friends and fellow soldiers and the gallant troopers.
We then took up the line of march with eleven prisoners and two badly wounded, one of which died on the road and had to be left on the way to be buried. One mule and cart, one horse saddle and bridle taken from the Yankees.
We marched into camp about six o’clock and all the shouting you ever heard in your life would not compare with the shouts of those remaining in camp.
Our Captain regrets not being in the engagement no little. He said would have given any thing in the world if he had been in.
The prisoners were immediately sent to Yorktown for safe keeping. The wounded man is still here in the hospital. He seems to suffer very much.
Last night although tired and sleepy we got up all the instruments we could and gave Major Hood a serenade. He again made us a few remarks in which he complimented us very highly. We also had a few remarks from Captains Thomas Goode, William Adams, and Johnson of the Cumberland Troops.
Last night we were aroused about three o’clock and ordered to saddle our horses and get ready to march at a moment’s notice. It was reported that a large force was landing at Messicks Point. It turned out to be all report.
I had no idea I could keep as cool in an engagement as I did yesterday. Before the firing commenced, I asked God’s protection over one and all of my friends and Red I really felt He would. How thankful I feel to Him for His protection over me. It is really a miracle that some of us was not killed.
Only one of our company got a shot. They said he killed the man he shot at. We were thrown behind for a rarity and before we could get up those three who were passing across the field were taken.
I wrote you a letter last Wednesday. I suppose you have received it before now. Ain’t you ashamed of yourself to make fun of my letters. I thought my darling would be the last one in the world to do that.
I would rather you would not read my letters to visitors. I don’t care for everybody to know my ignorance.
Bless your darling heart for the sweet bouquet you sent in your letter. I put that and the two lines you sent me sometime ago in the back of your deguerreo type.
I shall come home just as soon as I can get off but I am afraid it will be some time yet. I would like very much to be at home when your brother John comes. I would like very much to see him.
I am very sorry your dream of me was not a reality. It would make me very happy to take a ride with my darling. I often think of the many pleasant ones we have taken together and how happy I used to be.
Why does my darling think she will tire me with her letters and that I would appreciate them more if she were to write shorter ones? My cousin, if you think so you are wrong. I am always sorry when I get to the end of your dear letters. You cannot write them too long nor too often and she knows it. She knows her letters make me very happy.
I am glad to hear Joe has another officer. He is a deserving boy.
You are perfectly welcome to my deguerreo type if you want it. I will have it taken as soon as I can. I hardly reckon that will be before I come home as there is no gallery down in this part of the world.
Write me word in your next what trouble that is you referred to in your last letter and remember your troubles that I may bear a part of them.
Red, why do you hesitate to ask me questions and to write freely to me? You always ask me to pardon you for asking questions and say you are afraid you ask too much of me. My Darling that is impossible. You cannot ask too much of me. There is nothing in this world that lies in my power that I would refuse you. I cannot do too much for my Darling. Don’t you know I can’t? It makes me very happy when I have it in my power to do anything for my cousin.
I have just been told that two deserters came over from Old Point yesterday and gave themselves up to the pickets. One of my mess brought them to camp today. I did not see them. They have been sent to York.
I hope o’er this your dear father and Ella have entirely recovered. Give my best love to them and the rest of the family.
I never carry your letters with me. I always burn them either the same day or the day after I get them. You need not be at all uneasy about them nor anything you may write.
You never heard of my showing your letter nor you never will. I prize them too highly. I am rather selfish with them. I hate very much having to burn them but I think it best.
I hope you will not tire reading this. I should dislike very much to weary your patience.
Write me long letters and think not you will tire me but make me happy.
As ever yours,
Don’t show this mess.
(Thomas B. Booth)
Confederate 3rd Virginia Cavalry Soldier’s Letter!
Written on:June 10, 2010
In category: Letters